Place of the compulsory internship in the program of studies
All the Master’s degree programs leading to a degree in engineering include a compulsory internship in their curricula. The internship is a component in the Master’s degree cycle which must be successfully validated in order to receive the degree. For architecture, on the other hand, it is in fact a pre-requisite for admission into the Master’s degree cycle.
Out of preference, the internship should be done in a company or at least in an organization which is not academic. As its primary purpose is the immersion in a professional environment, the familiarization with the processes of the company and with all aspects of the engineering profession, it cannot take place in a school or in a university.
The 20 Master’s degree programs which require completion of a compulsory internship have defined, in their specific academic regulations, the internship formats recognized for their respective curricula. We have identified three variants:
a short internship which can be done during an academic break, generally in summer, for a minimum of 8 weeks (but extendable up to 6 months);
a long internship completed during a full semester, for a duration of between 4 and 6 months;
an internship realized within the framework of a Master’s degree project, categorized as a thus on the student’s transcript.
In certain programs, the internship is awarded independent credits (8 or 30), marked as separate on the transcript (“SCS”– Internship for Separate Credits). In others, these credits are awarded along with those of the Master’s degree project (indicated as “STAP”- Internship Credited Within the Master’s Degree Project). Successful completion of a Master’s degree project in a company (“PDME”) will earn 30 credits.
The internship cannot take place before the completion of the Bachelor’s degree (with the exception of the Master’s in architecture program). Certain programs require that one or two semesters of Master’s degree studies be completed prior to leaving for internship.
In all cases (separate credits or credits within the project of Master’s degree), the internship must be successfully completed before the last term of studies and the obtention of the degree.
The table lists the possible internship variants for each of the 20 EPFL Master’s degree programs. The student is invited to consult his/her department’s academic regulations and to inquire about the variants and periods of possible internships which are allowed.
Differences between an internship and a Master's degree project in a company
There are important academic and administrative differences between an internship and a Master’s degree project in a company. During an internship, the student is generally employed by the company which ensures proper supervision of his/her work. For the Master’s degree project in a company, however, the supervision is ensured by a professor or Senior Scientist of EPFL, who collaborates with the company. Thus, a student cannot make a commitment to a company for a Master’s degree project without first obtaining the agreement of the professor who will supervise it. The latter will have ascertained and validated all the academic aspects of the work, in close consultation with the company.
Accordingly, the subject of a Master’s degree project in a company has to be a research topic linked to innovation. The focus of an internship, however, does not have this constraint and be situated in a more general context in connection to the various facets of the engineering profession.
At the administrative level, for a Master’s degree project in a company the student has no obligation to be formally hired by the company, because s/he is supervised by EPFL. This has implications for the type of agreement to be signed with the company. Specifically, students of any nationality may complete a validated Master’s project without additional work authorization, as long as they hold a valid student permit at EPFL.
Contacts within departments
Every faculty or Master’s degree program has appointed an internship coordinator who is the main person of reference for all questions connected to the internships and their validation.